Calera PD participates in school active shooter training

By WILLIAM MARLOW / Special to the Reporter

CALERA — With the fall school semester less than two weeks away, law enforcement in Shelby County and across the state are preparing for a situation they hope to never encounter: a school active shooting.

Through Aug. 6, the Calera Police Department will participate in a federal training program relating to active shooter scenarios in schools.

According to Chief David Hyche, the training will largely focus on law enforcement response protocols, with a specific emphasis on early-stage intervention.

“Time is of the utmost importance during these situations and through Columbine and other shootings, police officer responders would wait until they had a certain number of people or a SWAT team in place,” Hyche said. “We don’t do that anymore because every second is precious. Every minute we wait, unfortunately, more people die. So, the cutting-edge training and methodology for dealing with this situation is to get to the shooting and now eliminate the threat.”

Four members of the Calera Police Department were selected to join the week-long training session, including both of the department’s two school resource officers as well as members of the Crisis Response Team, formerly the department’s SWAT Team.

The several-day intensive course is being conducted in partnership with the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which oversees training certification for all federal law enforcement.

Hyche described the federal training academy as the premier organization in the country for law enforcement instruction.

“The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center is an excellent provider. They’re very renowned for their training and do training all over the country,” he said.

According to Hyche, the organization provides training courses for well over 90 federal agencies, with instructors frequently training members of the Secret Service as well as ATF agents and U.S. Marshals.

As part of the event, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office is also leasing the department’s state-of-the-art training facilities, where law enforcement agencies from across the country frequently train.

According to Chief of Administration Loyd Baker, the department’s facilities were specifically designed to accommodate a variety of law enforcement training approaches, with active-shooter exercises being a priority.

“That type of training is crucial. Sheriff Abernathy made it a priority because there are very few scenarios that are as dangerous as responding to an active shooter, especially when an officer is alone or with very little backup,” Baker said.

The facility even includes a mock school hallway with classrooms in order to practice active-shooting scenarios.

“Sheriff Abernathy wanted to be able to make sure our personnel were always prepared to respond to an active shooter situation, if the need ever arose,” Baker said. “Active shooters are rare occurrences, thankfully. A lot of the things we train for we’ll hopefully never have to use, but that doesn’t diminish the need to be prepared.”

Baker said the federal-level training course will be divided between classroom instruction as well as drill exercise scenarios. During drills, training often spans every phase of an active-shooting incident from door entry to simunition training, which oftentimes involves officers firing plastic bullets filled with paint in order to simulate gunfire.

“It’s just a way to train in the most realistic circumstances possible and to make it as real as possible for the people training,” Baker said.

In addition to firearm handling and physical endurance, Baker said training often involves psychological conditioning such as stress inoculation, which prepares the brain for highly stressful situations.

“Stress goes way up in these types of situations, but if you have been in the same situations at a lower level, like in a practice scenario, you’re almost inoculating yourself to the stress as you train,” Baker said. “So if you do respond to a high-risk situation, you will be able to be better able to control your stress response, which will help you think better and help you to function better.”

According to Baker, law enforcement on all levels are increasingly viewing active-shooter training as a vital component for any adequate emergency response force.

Calera Chief David Hyche concurs and said his department frequently conducts active-shooter training drills at all four of Calera’s area schools in addition to the annual federal training.

“We have a very close relationship with our high school and our middle school, especially with all the schools. We talk on a very routine basis, and we plan training, and when we do our training at the schools, it’s in conjunction with the staff, and they’re part of it with us as is the fire department,” Hyche said.

As part of this practice, Hyche said that the Calera Police Department generally conducts additional training exercises at Calera area schools during each school semester.